Amanda Shull was a Healthy Start participant throughout her pregnancy. Pregnant with twins, Amanda went into preterm labor at 33 weeks gestation. Klaire was a very low birth weight of only 3 pounds 7 ounces, although both twins were in the NICU for about two weeks, where mother still breastfed her babies to ensure their nourishment.
At their two-month, well-child check-up, Klaire was having difficulty breathing and was taken to Flowers Hospital in Dothan, where she was diagnosed with bronchitis and signs of pneumonia. Klaire was then taken to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Pensacola, now diagnosed with adeno and rhino viruses, causing swelling in her airway. After two weeks, she was air lifted to Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville. On August 25, she was placed on a life-support system to help support her heart and lungs at which point the Shull family was told that the next 60-90 minutes of their daughters’ life was the most crucial. Amanda recalls, “Being told that short amount of time is where your child’s life hangs in the balance is something no parent wants to hear.”
After many tests, Klaire was diagnosed with Congenital Tracheal Stenosis, which is a narrow airway that would require major surgery to repair. On September 5, Klaire had open chest surgery to widen her trachea. This procedure is rare; Klaire went into cardiac arrest three times, but the family never lost faith. Klaire was taken of life support and went home with her family on November 1.
During this episode, Klaire and her twin sister were in Healthy Start; her Family Support Worker, Shelia Lewis, provided services at their home in Holmes County. Also providing support to Amanda, who was mostly staying at Shands with her daughter, Shelia was diligent to contact Amanda regularly. After Klaire came home, her mother visited Sheila in the Healthy Start office, always expressing how much she appreciated all the valuable services provided by Holmes County Healthy Start.
Amanda commented often that when Klaire was in the hospital, she would be “so down, and then the phone would ring, and it would be Healthy Start.” She further told Sheila how her phone calls to check on her “would make her smile and feel better,” adding that the support she received “was just so amazing!” Klaire is expected to make a full recovery, nothing short of a miracle. According to Shelia, “Klaire is a ray of sunshine and a survivor.”
Each fall, Holmes County Healthy Start hosts a Community Yard Sale in Bonifay. During the event, families throughout the area gather on the comfy lawn of the First Baptist Church Annex to sell and buy gently used baby and children’s clothes, toys, books, and more. And, everyone selling items gets to keep 100% of the money they make. This year, the Healthy Start Program also held a Community Baby Shower in conjunction with the Yard Sale. All new moms and moms-to-be were treated to lunch, including a tasty dessert, and many of those in attendance won great door prizes.
Amber Whitford brings a freshness to Healthy Start. As a new mother with a one-year-old, she often shares her experiences, creating an even better connection with her clients. She is primarily focused on the importance of prenatal care and postnatal care in the trimester following delivery. Amber is highly skilled, shedding light on the importance of newborn care, especially to the first-time mother, bringing her special understanding of just how fragile and precious newborns are.
Shelia Lewis brings to Healthy Start over 25 years of experience, as she worked with the Florida Department of Children and Families and Florida Intervention Program prior to joining the team. She provides excellent parenting support and education to Healthy Start participants, along with a wonderful balance of professional service and friendship. She is Lead Care Coordinator for Holmes and Washington Healthy Start and is an awesome teacher and support for the other Family Support Workers. Very organized and efficient, Sheila keeps her caseload in compliance and always has the best interest of her clients, supervisors, and coworkers at heart.
Congratulations Sheila; we appreciate your efforts so much!
Tiffany is a Healthy Start Family Support Worker that has been with WCHD Healthy Start since December 2015. Tiffany’s contributions to Healthy Start include a dynamic rapport with our pregnant moms in Washington County. They trust her, and they enjoy sharing their stories of joy and sadness with her. Tiffany is dedicated to making sure each pregnant mom leaves Healthy Start feeling hopeful, as she empowers them to believe that they can be a good parent, or that they can breastfeed, or that they can get through labor and delivery and accomplish their goals.
The Coalition congratulates and thanks Tiffany for her exemplary contribution!
Looking at him now, you might have never guessed that Daedric was born nine weeks early, weighing only 2lbs. 11oz., arriving early due to complications during pregnancy. His mom, Tamika recalls, “Everything was fine. Every visit was normal. But, one day, the swelling in my feet was not normal, and then I started having pains in my chest.”
Tamika saw her doctor and was immediately transferred to labor and delivery because she had suddenly developed HELLP syndrome. While in labor, Tamika’s platelet count continued to plummet, meaning baby Daedric had to be delivered quickly, so Tamika underwent an immediate C-section to ensure Daedric’s and her safety.
Daedric’s early arrival was a lesson on why it’s so important to go to all prenatal appointments, as well as the importance of contacting the OB/GYN when something’s not right. “My advice to other mothers is call your doctor [immediately] if something doesn’t feel right no matter if everything has been normal [throughout your pregnancy],” Tamika added.
Today, Daedric is thriving, which Tamika credits in large part to exclusive breastfeeding. While receiving education and support on premature birth, she also learned about the benefits of breastfeeding from the Holmes County Healthy Start Program. The program provided other information and guidance, including how to track Daedric’s growth and development, since preterm babies develop a little differently.
“The staff are helpful with the advice on breastfeeding and how to look after him, and myself,” Tamika noted, “I hope anyone who is going to have a baby would consider taking advantage of the program.”
The Healthy Start program was created to give extra help and encouragement to any mom and baby who might need it, especially young, single moms, like Sierra Kent.
Sierra participated in the Healthy Start program during a pervious pregnancy and was familiar with the services the program offered. However, several months into her recent pregnancy with Baby Joel, she found herself in great need of help. Sierra was separated from her two older children, homeless, and in need of treatment for substance abuse. It was in this point that Sierra decided things needed to be different.
Sierra shared, “I am just so appreciative of the help and support Ms. Valery gave to me. I’m back home. I got my GED and now have a job and a car. Now my plan is to work and go back to school to become a nurse and to have all of my children living with me, so we can all be together.”
In addition to this continued support, Healthy Start provided Sierra additional education information on best practices for safe sleep, how to cope with crying, and counseling on interconception health. Program Manager, Valery Lawton stated, “Watching Sierra, who has been through so much and come so far; she is now my hero.”
Both Sierra and Baby Joel are healthy and happy and Sierra is well on her way to achieving her goals for herself and her family. She stated, “I want my story to help people, so they don’t have to go through what I’ve gone through.”
Just as with Sierra, Healthy Start will certainly be available to support and educate those moms, like Sierra, who need that extra help.
A core mission of the Healthy Start Program is to reduce fetal and infant mortality and to improve the health outcomes for women of childbearing age and children under the age of three. One of the many ways the program accomplishes this is through education on safe sleep, which includes how to perform infant CPR. This knowledge helped mom, Christy Bush, who had participant in the Washington County Healthy Start Program, save her baby, Aubrey’s life.
Due to multiple complications with Christy’s pregnancy, which were made worse by a serious pre-existing medical condition, Aubrey was born seven weeks early. Thanks to the help of the labor and delivery team, Aubrey was delivered safely and free from harm. However, a few weeks after Christy and Aubrey were home from the hospital, Aubrey suddenly stopped breathing.
Christy said, “My first instinct was to start CPR the way I learned from Ms. Valery in the safe sleep class I took through the Healthy Start program. I had a neighbor call 911 and continued with CPR until the ambulance arrived.”
Today, Aubrey is continuing to thrive, and both mom and baby are healthy and happy. Christy stated, “I am so grateful for the knowledge I learned from the class and from all the help I received from the program. They were all very easy to talk to and taught me a lot about myself and how to take care of her [Aubrey].”
Ellen Joy (E) and Arthur (A) Cheverie discussed their Healthy Start experience, as they welcomed Josiah Jared to the family:
E - It helped me a lot. The classes I attended educated me, and I tried to apply everything I learned. So far, it has worked — the exercises and the birth plan.
A - He came five weeks early, so he caught us by surprise.
E - Healthy Start gave the pack-n-play and the car seat, along with the education. I would recommend this, honestly, to anyone.
E - There was a lot of social interaction with other parents. They told me to call them when I had questions and I know I have someone there to understand what I’m going through sometimes when I got frustrated.
A - It was nice for her to know she wasn’t going through this alone. She had the Healthy Start people and other moms she could talk to; a sort of shared burden.
E - The first class I attended was the Moms in Bloom class, and I really liked it and thought I will attend again. And why not? It’s free!
A - We attended every single class Healthy Start offered while she was pregnant.
E - Going to all those classes helped us to be prepared for JJ. Healthy Start taught about breastfeeding. JJ is a breastfeed baby. Good for immune system. We know the cues.
A - Delivered at Jackson; they did great over there. There was a nurse named Dawn who was a Godsend. She explained different stages of labor and how the body works to get the baby out — when to push. In this culture where new moms are cut off from their extended family and where families are broken down, there is a lack of education that would normally have been passed from mother to daughter, and it’s just not there. New moms don’t know what to expect or what to do and [Healthy Start] helps to fill in those gaps created by the breakdown of the family.
E - You cannot replace this program. They are like your moms. You can always call your mom ... well, you can always call Healthy Start if you have questions. I don’t have my mom here, so they are my moms! If you are pregnant or planning, go to Healthy Start! I recommended it to my neighbors. They screened (Healthy Start Prenatal Screen) me at my first visit with Dr. Muniz. And although I did not score the right score, they referred me anyway because he (JJ) was my first baby. I had some swelling in the later stages of pregnancy, and Healthy Start even helped answer questions about self-care for this problem. We truly can’t thank them enough!
In the Safe Sleep classes, families — moms, dads, and even grandparents — learn about what a safe sleep environment is and how to create one for their babies. Parents and caregivers also learn infant CPR and the best practices for safe sleep, including that, while baby needs lots of play time on his/her tummy, baby should always sleep alone on his/her back with only a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet. Parents who attended these education classes also received a brand new pack and play crib set if needed, so baby had a safe place to sleep.
The Coalition also sends out big thanks to the Bonifay Kiwanis Club for their generous donations to purchase the pack and play crib set, as they share the Healthy Start mission to serve the community, particularly with these great education classes.
Holmes County Healthy Start continues its legacy of serving preconception to early childhood babies and moms, hosting events and programs that provide the timely tools and information mothers need. Valery Lawton and her great staff are committed to ensuring the best birth outcomes throughout Holmes County.
If you’re expecting your first child, you may feel overwhelmed with questions and fears. That is why Valery Lawton and her professional staff encourage soon-to-be parents to attend the convenient birthing classes offered at the Florida Department of Health in Holmes County.
These classes will help prepare you for becoming a parent, in addition to introducing the changes that pregnancy brings, including labor and delivery and caring for your newborn.
Information you can get from a birthing class includes:
Classes also outline what to expect after the baby is born, including breastfeeding, baby care and dealing with the emotional changes of new parenthood.
Your birthing partner is also encouraged to attend, and if your birth coach is the baby’s father, he can also benefit from knowing what to expect when mom goes into labor and how to assist in that process.
For all involved, birthing classes will provide the knowledge and confidence needed to give birth and make informed decisions. The ultimate goal is simply to have a healthy mom and healthy baby.